As Bodyguard’s impeccably kempt Budd and Elton’s lover/manager in Rocketman, Richard Madden carries himself with a clear-cut mien of his own. Wonder no longer how those Bond rumours started…

Just before he sits down to have his hair styled, Richard Madden shoots me a cool-guy wink and a cheeky grin that lands just the right side of smooth. You half expect him to make a pair of pistols with his hands: “Pow! Pow!” Delivered with a hint of self-deprecating irony while dressed in a Boss tuxedo, thoughts turn immediately to Bond and the reports that he is set to replace Daniel Craig as 007.

You’d be feeling pretty cocky too if you’ve had the kind of year that Madden has just enjoyed. First, Bodyguard, the BBC show that single-handedly revived an institution we thought had died: Sunday-night prime-time telly. With a finale that was watched by 17 million – the biggest-ever audience for a UK drama – it was also the role that helped Madden break out of the “handsome prince” typecast that came from playing Robb Stark in Game Of Thrones. Then, an utter bastard in John Reid, Elton John’s toxic ex-lover and manager, in the biopic Rocketman, in which he wore the hell out of some sharply cut, mod-style suits. Finally, just days before the GQ shoot, Madden had been on stage at Comic-Con in San Diego and was introduced as Ikaris, one of the leads in the upcoming Marvel movie The Eternals, alongside Angelina Jolie as Thena. “I’m not really allowed to talk about it,” says Madden. “It’s their new big superhero thing. I’m one of ten immortals put on the planet… to, erm, protect us from bad guys.” How was Jolie? “She was just really lovely and wonderful and I’m really excited to work with her.” His publicist interjects: “Marvel are going to come and get us if we say any more. Sorry.”

From the most-watched TV drama to the very top of the Hollywood A-list – and, at the time of writing, we’re still only in July. Not bad. “I’ve been working for 22 years, so it’s not like it’s crept up on me,” says Madden. “I’ve worked hard to get where I am and the stars have aligned for me.”

He adds, “I’m just enjoying riding the wave… And I’m running with it. Because it could all fall apart at any minute – and I’ll be left with nothing!”

A quick selfie in the mirror just to double check. Action! Madden and the camera proceed to make sweet love to one another. The photographer shouts, “Yes! I love it!” Three looks in total: bam, bam, bam! And before we know it, he’s done. Richard Madden has just shot his second cover for British GQ this year.

You’d never have thought it given his outward confidence, but none of this comes easily to him: “When the camera’s rolling, I’m fine,” says Madden. “I’m acting and so not really thinking about it. But when it’s just for a frame, I become more self-aware.” Madden, it turns out, is actually rather shy.

So how does it feel to win the Hugo Boss Most Stylish Man award? “It feels cool. I always think of myself as being quite classic and simple. It looks effortless, but it takes a bit of thought to make a simple T-shirt and bomber jacket look really smart and cool.”

Perhaps it’s the hair, or that hint of vulnerability, the pretty boy with an edge, but Madden seems like someone who wants to channel his inner surly screen icon. “I like actors with classic style,” he says when I ask him where he gets his fashion inspiration from. “People like Robert Redford and James Dean.”

Like a lot of men who navigate a busy and complex career and social life, 33-year-old Madden has settled upon a uniform. By day, he prefers a black T-shirt, black jeans and black boots with a suede bomber jacket from Valstar or Officine Générale (that James Dean thing again) – simple items carefully chosen for their perfectly tailored fit. So how has his wardrobe evolved since he came to success? “Mainly in terms of the quality I can buy now,” he says. “Rather than just discarding and getting new things, I’d rather invest in good pieces that last.”

But fame exerts pressure on your wardrobe in unexpected ways: “I have three of the same black T-shirt, jeans and boots and I wear the exact same clothes every day for three days at a time. So when the paparazzi follow you, you’re wearing the same outfit and they’ve already run those pictures yesterday. They can’t use them, because it looks like the same day. This is why having a uniform works for me. I do this a lot in LA.”

At the premiere for Rocketman at the Cannes Film Festival, Madden was coaxed out of his uniform and into a white double-breasted dinner jacket. “I was like, ‘Yeah, this is great!’ I always like to wear black, so it was a departure for me.”

But again, fame and success: “Everyone’s got make-up on and got grubby hands and wants to touch you and talk to you. It gets really dirty, especially on the shoulders. I was like, ‘I’m going to look like a napkin at the end of the night.’”

Surface detail has a way of revealing inner character, especially so in Rocketman. “With those big double-breasted suits and the tall Cuban heels you feel powerful,” says Madden of the outfits. “John Reid wanted to enter a room and for people to immediately see this powerful force. It’s a bold image that you see straight away. It gives me that status, which is so important for the character.”

What about grooming? “Just make sure you wash your face every day with the right stuff and moisturise and you’ll be fine. I’m pretty low-maintenance.” But what about that huge bag stuffed full of Tom Ford products he’s got with him? “[Laughs.] That’s because I’m travelling a lot.”

With that, he says goodbye, before availing himself of the Boss tailor who waits to measure him up for his GQ Men Of The Year Awards outfit. Richard Madden: a man that was born red-carpet ready.

Interviews From 2019

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